Padres Starting Position Players 2011- Who ARE These Guys?
Adrian Gonzalez? Gone. David Eckstein? History. The Hairstons? Adios.
Miguel Tejada? Auf Weidersehen. Yorvit Torrealba? Movin on..
You get the picture. The Padres will be a different team in 2011.
The question becomes "Is different better?" I know that what I see on paper right now looks much better than the last two seasons teams did at this same point. Lets take a look at what should be the Padres starting line up for opening day.
1B: Brad Hawpe: The Tiger
Once a mighty Padre killer, Brad Hawpe comes to San Diego with the monumental task of replacing Adrian Gonzalez. Hawpe is looking to rebound from a dismal 2010, which he split between Colorado and Tampa Bay.
The Padres hope is that Hawpe can hang in there long enough for rookie slugger Kyle Blanks to come of age down at Triple A. Blanks is the first baseman of the future for San Diego, with a sweet power swing, only his heath will keep him out of the line up.
If Hawpe can find the short porch in right a few times, he may bust double digits in the power department at Petco. My prediction is one season and done as a Padre for "The Tiger".
2B: Orlando Hudson : O Dawg
A two time Gold Glover, Orlando Hudson takes over at second from David Eckstein, and unlike first base, the Padres do not have anyone at 2B in the minors even close to being ready for the show.
So Hudson might stick with a decent season, San Diego needs some production from the top of the order.
Hudson has played for 4 teams, with the Padres becoming his 5th. He has hit for the cycle, something no Padre has ever done. A lifetime .280 hitter, Hudson should be a significant upgrade offensively from last years platoon of Eckstein and Jerry Hairston.
The "O Dawg" should have Padre fans barking up a storm this season..
SS: Jason Bartlett: Taco Man
Taco man? You bet, Bartlett swiped a base in the World Series in 2008 and won every person in America a free taco from Taco Bell. Everyone should contribute to my day so effectively.
Jason Bartlett arrives here in San Diego from Tampa Bay, where he helped lead the Rays into their first ever post season appearance. Bartlett played for the Minnesota Twins before being dealt to the Rays, and led all shortstops in errors with 27 in 2007.
Bartlett turned it around in Tampa, being named the Rays MVP for 2008, exactly the kind of player the Padre have needed at short, if he has any gas left in the tank.
Hopefully, the defensive pairing of Hudson and Bartlett will give the Padres more stability up the middle.
3B: Chase Headley : The Brain
Chase Headley arrived a couple years ago, touted as the best Padre prospect to come up since they signed Dave Winfield. Headley has been decent, but Winfield he is not.
Headley tore his way through the minors, bashing his way to a 330 avg and Texas League player of the year honors in 2007. His time in the Majors has been a bit more unsuccessful, but there has been improvement overall. Headley swiped 17 bases in 2010, always a plus for a third baseman.
The Padres need Headley to improve on his average and on base percentage, and to continue to develop at 3rd, his natural position. The Brain can help the Padres win those 2 games they were short last season, both with his bat and his glove.
LF: Ryan Ludwick : Clubber Lang
San Diego went looking for a bat at the trade deadline last season, and landed power hitting Ryan Ludwick from the St. Louis Cardinals. While not providing the pop San Diego had hoped for, Ludwick's presence in the line up enabled the Padres to make a solid ruin at the NL West pennant.
"Clubber" has hit 101 lifetime home runs, but will find that 81 games at Petco will challenge his ability to make that number grow. Where Ludwick can really help is by hitting for power on the road.
The Padres have lacked a true home run threat, barring rookie Kyle Blanks of course, for years
( ok Adrian Gonzalez too).Out of Sight, Out of mind...
A few power hitters have come and gone, notably Milton Bradley who punched his own ticket out of town when he tore up his knee arguing a call.
20 dingers is not out of the question for Ludwick, along with 80 RBI. The Padres need Ludwick's bat in good working order to make a run in 2011.
CF: Cameron Maybin: The Phenom
After deciding that Tony Gwynn Jr just didn't have enough of dad's DNA in his bat, The Padres traded for Florida Marlins CF Cameron Maybin, and all his potential.
Maybin has shown flashes of brilliance, yet there remain many questions.
Can Maybin hit at Petco?
Can he handle everyday duties?
Will running down fly balls at Petco wear him out?
Can he be a viable part of the top of the order?
At 23, the jury is still out, a player is not considered in his prime until the age of 27. If Maybin takes off, he will follow Adrian Gonzalez right out the door come new contract time.
RF: Will Venable- The Finley Clone
Will Venable reminds me of former Padre Steve Finley at the plate, and that's not a bad thing. Finley had a compact power swing that left no doubt when he turned on one. I see that in Venable's swing, but he needs to work on being more selective at the plate.
Right field is his to lose, with Chris Denorfia ready to step in if Venable falters or gets hurt again.
2010 saw Venable make his most appearances, but he was hindered by injury, usually after hitting a hot streak. Every time i snagged him in fantasy because Venable tore it up at at the plate the previous week, he went down within 24 hours, FYI...
If Finleys Clone can stay healthy, 20 home runs is not out of the question , nor is 20 stolen bases.
Catcher: Nick Hundley- The Hun
Catcher has been a gigantic hole in the Padres line up for years, not since Terry Kennedy has there been a truly rounded San Diego catcher. That includes Benito Santiago, and Ramon Hernandez.
Hundley is the number one backstop, simply because the Padres don't have any one else even close.
A .249 lifetime hitter in 3 seasons with San Diego, Hundley must up his production across the board offensively. Veteran catchers Greg Zaun and Rob Johnson will compete for the back up slot.
To me, The Hun also needs to work on his arm, and cut down a few more runners at second base this year. Calling a solid game for the young staff is also essential to San Diego's success in 2011.